Circuit of Ireland Rally - 21-23 Mar 08

Posted: March 26, 2008 12:45 PM - 41330 Hits

Round 2 - 2008 Tarmac Rally Championship
Round 3 - 2008 Northern Irish Rally Championship
Round 2 - 2008 Irish Fiesta Sporting Trophy

  • Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey win Circuit of Ireland
  • More Photos & Video Clips

Photo: Roy Dempster

John McGlaughlin seals maiden Group N International Rally victory

Posted: March 26, 2008 12:45 PM

Finally, he has done it! Cookstown man John McGlaughlin sealed his maiden International rally production category victory at last weekend's Circuit of Ireland, grabbing the spoils - as well as fifth overall - by an impressive two minutes at the end of the three-day Easter event!

"It's my first big win!" an ecstatic McGlaughlin said at the Newry finish ramp. "And it's been a long time coming! We were on the pace from the start and after Roy (White) retired, that left us with a huge lead. I'm so relieved to make it to the finish - it was mentally exhausting!"

Fresh from finishing sixth overall and second in Group N at round one of the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship in Galway, John and navigator Crawford Henderson were raring to go at the start of this year's Circuit of Ireland. Their McGlaughlin's Bakery Mitsubishi Lancer was in fine fettle, but things failed to go to plan over the opening stages though, as a wrong tyre choice saw the crew lose precious seconds.

"We were on intermediates and totally destroyed a new set of Kumho Tyres within 10 miles," John said. "The tyres went off and the car started pushing the nose - we slid off and lost about 10 seconds!"

John's problems didn't stop there, and despite being sponsored by Sunoco Fuels and Hilltop Fuels, he suffered with fuel starvation during the second stage! That resulted in the Cookstown man having to turn off his anti-lag and free wheel wherever possible!

Luckily, he made it into service and with a new set of tyres on the car, as well as some petrol, the final loop of stages saw the sponsored car back on the pace. By the close of play on Friday, he was lying seventh overall and second in Group N!

Saturday brought new challenges and John's aim was to catch the category leader. Fastest over morning's first stage, the omens were good for the Cookstown man, as he swiped three seconds out of the leader. Unfortunately for his rival, he retired with mechanical problems during just as the battle was beginning to heat up, automatically promoting John into the top spot.

"I was disappointed when Roy retired on Saturday morning," John admitted, "as it was shaping up to be a good battle. That handed us a three minute lead and we managed to extend that to four minutes by the end of the second leg. Apart from a broken bolt in the gearbox mounting, as well as a brush against a hedge, we had no major dramas."

With such a commanding advantage, John was brimming with confidence going into the final leg. All he had to do was coast his Mitsubishi Lancer to the finish, and even a two-minute time penalty awarded on Sunday morning failed to stop his charge. A healthy helping of points were on the cards, as well as a top five placing overall.

"I was very cautious all day on Sunday," John admitted. "I knew I had to take it steady to get her home and get some points. We still managed to set fastest times over most stages and it was great arrive at the finish in one piece. Knowing I had such a healthy lead made it mentally exhausting. It was a very enjoyable rally and I'd like to thank my navigator, Crawford Henderson, as well as the lads at McNeill Motorsport for making this possible!"

With his first international rally victory behind him, John also leads the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship Group N category. The Cookstown man is now looking forward to round three of the prestigious series, the Killarney Rally of the Lakes, which takes place during the May Day Bank Holiday weekend!

Sean Devine/Damien Duffin net Circuit of Ireland National Rally victory

Posted: March 25, 2008 5:35 PM

Strabane’s Sean Devine emerged victorious at last weekend’s Circuit of Ireland National Rally after a thrilling battle with Cookstown’s Glenn Allen. As round three of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship, almost 100 crews arrived at the start ramp for the two-day Easter event, which started and finished in Castlewellan.

It was Devine and navigator Damien Duffin who led from the start in their Subaru Impreza WRC, going fastest on the rally opener by five seconds from Sean McArdle and Gerard McMonagle. Neil McCance and Sean Ferris were third in their Group N Lancer, while Cookstown sizzler Allen was taking some time to heat up in fourth overall, as he suffered with a broken intercooler pipe.

Devine continued to set the pace through Saturday’s early stages, but Allen finally broke his duck on stage 10 when he went fastest. Navigated by Damien Connolly, the reigning champions were quickest again through stage 11, but Devine was soon back on form. Going into the day’s final stage, he had amassed a lead of almost half a minute from Allen with Connor McCloskey and Francis Regan third, but that was set to be turned on its head.

“We got a flat tyre five miles before the end of the final stage,” Devine explained. “We really struggled to get to the end of the stage and lost about 45 seconds.”

Devine’s dramas allowed Allen to hold an overnight lead of 14.6 seconds, with second placed Devine less than 27 seconds ahead of McCloskey. It was still anyone’s rally, and with another six stages on the cards during Easter Sunday, the scene was set for a thrilling final day battle.

McCloskey was quickest out of the blocks on Sunday morning, setting his first fastest stage time with his newly acquired Subaru Impreza WRC S12. Then it was second placed Devine who was back on the ball, reducing Glenn Allen’s lead to less than five seconds in one deft swoop!

One stage later, Devine had nipped into the lead by one second, and although Allen fought hard in his Corolla WRC, he failed to stop the Devine steamroller. Fastest on each of the remaining stages, it was Sean Devine and Damien Duffin who arrived in Castlewellan victorious, with Glenn Allen and Damien Connolly settling for second ahead of Connor McCloskey and Francis Regan.

“We had a pretty troubled weekend,” second placed Allen said afterwards. “An intercooler pipe cracked on the first stage, then we had glazed brakes for the second stage. We managed to get the intercooler pipe sorted at first service, but had to run with the brakes until second service. Then on Sunday, the car started to misfire!”

Outside the top three, Neil McCance and Sean Ferris arrived home in fourth overall and first in Group N, with Sean McArdle and Gerard McMonagle taking fifth ahead of Colm McFall and Donal Lennon.

As already mentioned, the battle for Sunoco Fuels Group N honours was won by Neil McCance and Sean Ferris. They led the category from the start, with Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont holding an early second from Enda McNulty and Declan Campbell. McNulty later retired after visiting a field, while John Walker and Cathal Rogers also retired during leg one.

There were no such troubles for McCance though, and he accelerated to the finish line in first position. Head and shoulders above his category rivals, he sealed the production category win as well as fourth overall, while Alan Nesbitt and Quentin Park arrived home in second ahead of Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont.

The Superdrive two wheel drive category saw a jubilant David Armstrong and Duncan MacFarlane emerge victorious. After a tremendous battle with John Waring and Mo Downey, Armstrong took victory, as well as ninth overall, by a slender nine seconds from Waring. Michael Conlon and Aidan Boyle finished third among the two wheel drive men, with Fintan McGrady and Conal McCartan fourth ahead of James Kennedy and John Rowan.

With Easter falling early this year, the Pacenotes championship has a break of almost two months before the KBB Tour of the Sperrins gets underway. Based in Maghera, the event is the second closed road rally of the season, and it starts from Walsh’s Hotel on Saturday 17 May. More details will be announced in due course on the official championship website -


Posted: March 25, 2008 4:59 PM

Letterkenny Teenager, Toni Kelly and Co-Driver Joe Hunter secured her best result to date by finishing 11th Overall and 2nd in class in the Circuit of Ireland Rally at the weekend. The pair were also the 2nd two wheel drive car back.

The weekend was mostly uneventful besides a collision with another competitor commented Toni "we were having a great run at the stages with no moments but while on route to SS10 we turned onto the stage and we were approaching the time control over a crest unfortunately we were not warned that everyone else was stopped at the other side of the crest and we collided with another competitor damaging both our car and the other car. The timekeepers later told us that they had been calling for a marshall to be positioned at the top of the crest as there had been a number of near misses before we came along" Besides the damage to the car the pair continued and by the end of Saturday were 11th Overall going into the overnight halt.

Sunday was to be another uneventful day and the pair took nearly 30secs of the Class leader on the first stage. Stage 16 "Legananny" was to be one of the most demanding stage on Car and Crew. "the jumps on this stage were really severe, on the biggest jump we thought we backed off for it but we landed really hard, Toni hurt her back and I got the wind knocked out of me" said Joe." The 2nd time over this stage they noticed a strange clicking from the gear box and the decision was taken to drive the car through the last stage and get the finish. "The stages themselves were great, tough and Technical and it was a great feeling to be up alongside the Top boys for a change. The accident was unfortunate but we carried on. Kilarney next! A new event for me so a an extra hurdle to overcome" said Toni.
Toni thanked her sponsors Tony Kelly Cars, TK Developments, 4 Lanterns, Arena 7, Cristeph Gallery and Grafix Signs for their continued support and her crew, Dean Hetherington of WRC Engineering and his team, Tony Kelly, Ciaran Larkin and Aidan Caddye for on-event support.

Fiesta SportingTrophy - Easter Treat for Evans

Posted: March 25, 2008 4:55 PM

The second round of the 2008 Maxol E85 Ford Fiesta SportingTrophy championship took place last weekend on the UAC Circuit of Ireland Rally. The rally was based in the seaside town of Newcastle on the east coast of Northern Ireland.

The nine Fiesta crews that lined up for the start were to face Sunday
s six stages, making up 52 competitive stage miles. The competitors were faced with cold overcast weather conditions as they left the start, with a possible threat of rain the majority of competitors opted for an
intermediate Pirelli tyre, the RE pattern tyre.

The first stage was the 8.7km of Knockiveagh 1. Top seeds Elfyn Evans (18) and Gareth Roberts from Mid Wales would set the quickest stage time followed only three seconds adrift by last season
s championship winner Alastair Fisher (18) from Enniskillen with co-driver Barry McNulty. The brothers of Tadhg and Shane Buckley from Ballyhaunis would round out the top three eight seconds behind Evans. Meanwhile the stage would also claim the first FST victim with Meilyr Evans (18), and co-driver Andrew Roberts, teammate
s to Elfyn retiring with electrical problems. Once the car was back at service the problem was easily fixed but it was an unfortunate early ending for the young Welsh duo. Paul Quinn (20) and new co-driver Gary McRam from Dungannon were also in trouble, an excursion into a field meant they dropped around a minute to the leaders.

Stage 2, Legananny, at 8.49km would prove to be a dramatic stage for some of the Fiesta crews. First to be caught out were the Buckley brothers, as the car compressed through one of the many dips on the stages it would veer off the road into a field and demolish a wall. The second Fiesta to retire would be local driver Kyle Orr (18) from Dromore, he was partnered by new navigator Drew Sturrock from Aberdeen. Orr rolled twice on the last corner of the stage resulting in instant retirement from the rally. Away from the drama, Fisher would claim the stage win and the overall lead, with Evans eleven seconds adrift. Evans reported having a big moment over a jump and surprising himself. Paul Quinn came back from his off on the first stage to set the third quickest time on the stage.

Stage 3 was the longest stage of the rally, Slieve Rosley at 8.8km. Fisher would again take the stage win increasing his lead over Evans to 10.4 seconds heading into service. Third quickest time on the stage was Adrian McBride from Co. Tyrone and Rodney Hicks, closely followed by Stephen Wright (18) from Co. Monaghan and his co-driver Ashley McAdoo. Wright was having a cautious first loop of stages reporting a number of big jumps and greasy road conditions in places but the Pirelli tyres were working well.

Crews headed to service at Newry, with no major problems to report a general check over of the cars was all that was required. Competitors then headed back out for the afternoon stages, a repeat of the morning loop.

Stage 4, a repeat of SS1 would be another win for Fisher again followed by Evans. McBride, Quinn and Wright would trail with Barry Greer (20) and John Lemon from Carryduff rounding off the Fiesta crews. Quinn
s fourth fastest time meant he would leapfrog Greer to take fifth place overall.

Stage 5, the penultimate stage of the rally, a repeat of SS2 Legananny, would again cause drama for the top crews. Fisher reported a problem with his fuel tank, a loose connection meaning reduced fuel pressure and dropped over 30 seconds to Evans and with it the rally lead. Fisher would clear the stage and end up with a 17.2 second deficit to Evans going into the final stage - a tall order with only 8.8 competitive km remaining. Quinn would be second fastest on the stage only six seconds behind Evans. McBride was third fastest and Greer continued his improvement in times finishing fourth quickest.

SS6, the final stage was a repeat of SS3, the 8.8km of Slieve Rosley. Fisher would start the stage but an effect of the technical gremlin on the previous stage would mean a retirement for Fisher, a cruel blow for the crew that had led for most of the day. However a consistent fast pace from Evans meant he had been in touch with Fisher all day and after the problems for Fisher, Evans held his nerve and took the win and with it
750 EUR in prize money. Paul Quinn again showed his potential pace with a second quickest time and without the early off he could have challenged for a podium position. However, rounding off the top three were both championship newcomers for 2008, McBride and Wright. Both crews were ecstatic with podium positions on only their second event in the cars.

The continued use of Maxol E85 Bio-Ethanol fuel and the Pirelli tyres meant that the stage times set by the Fiesta crews were again the talk of the rally, with the on-stage performance of Elfyn Evans and Alastair Fisher, enough to put them 5th overall in the International Rally, ahead of the 4WD Gp.N car
s, a remarkable achievement in the 2WD, non-turbo charged Fiestas.

The Most Improved Driver of the Day was Adrian McBride who climbed eight places in the day to lead the Motorsport Insurance Services supported challenge after the second round.

The next round of the series will be the Killarney Rally of the Lakes on 4 May 2008.

Elfyn Evans (18) from Powys, Mid-Wales, said:
We are over the moon with back to back wins in the Irish Series. There was a lot of hard work before the event preparing the new car but all the effort by the GEMsport team paid off with a maiden victory for the brand new car. The rally was a difficult one with some big crests and tough roads but to come away with the victory made the Easter vacation for the Hustings.Com team a great experience. Our next aim in Ireland is to make it three out of three!

Safe Finish to Circuit for Sonya Mac's Final Rally

Posted: March 25, 2008 4:53 PM

After last year's Circuit of Ireland Rally claimed the front end of Sonya Mac's Philip White Tyres Ka, the Cool FM DJ was intent on finishing the two day event this year in one piece despite having injured her coccyx whilst skiing in Poland a week and a half ago.

Sonya and co-driver Safron Thomas finished the gruelling 15 stage National event 4th in the 1400cc class.

The Circuit of Ireland National event, run over the Easter weekend included spectacular stages in the Mournes and throughout Counties Down, Armagh and Monaghan.

Sonya said,
'We were pretty nervous about the Circuit this year after having a bad smash in 2007 and just wanted to finish in one piece. The only damage done was a broken exhaust and my extremely sore tailbone after the Legananny Dolmen stage on Sunday that seemed to be 9 miles of crests and jumps!'

The Circuit of Ireland was the final event for the all girl team after the sponsorship contract with Philip White tyres came to an end.

With the cost of rallying starting to spiral and the talk of an economic downturn, many drivers and events are starting to feel the pinch, losing funding and support from sponsors.

Sonya said,
'Our contract was set from last year to finalise after the Circuit of Ireland so we are in a position now to sell our fantastic orange 1400cc Ford Ka.

'It has been an absolute pleasure to take part in such an exciting sport over the last two years and to represent such a supportive sponsor. Unfortunately funding is limited for so many teams and rallies at the moment and as a result, like many drivers this year we have to take a step back from competition.

Sonya and Safron haven't ruled out rallying or indeed any motorsport in the future but in the interim the Ford Ka will be for sale and the pair will hang up their rally boots.

Video Clips

Posted: March 24, 2008 9:15 AM

Results / Photos

Posted: March 24, 2008 9:10 AM

1 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC) 3h 03m 21s,
2 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC) 3h 03m 26s,
3 Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC) 3h 04m 47s,
4 Aaron MacHale/Killian Duffy (Ford Focus WRC) 3h 15m 24s,
5 John McGlaughlin/Crawford Henderson (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) GpN 3h 21m 10s,
6 Brendan Cumiskey/Conor Foley (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) GpN 3h 23m 07s,
7 Denis Biggerstaff/Alistair Wyllie (Subaru Impreza WRC) 3h 27m 01s,
8 Kevin Kelleher/Martin Kelleher (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) GpN 3h 29m 44s,
9 David Wright/Susanne Wright (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) GpN 3h 30m 12s,
10 Tommy Doyle/Tony McDaid (Renault Clio R3) 3h 36m 02s.

Leaders After:
SS1 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS2-3 Mark Higgins/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS4-20 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)

Easter Stages
1 Sean Devine/Damien Duffin (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h 54m 26s,
2 Glenn Allen/Damien Connolly (Toyota Corolla WRC) 1h 54m 32s,
3 Connor McCloskey/Francis Regan (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h 55m 09s.

Stage Winners:
SS1 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS2 Mark Higgins/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS3 Mark Higgins/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS4 Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS5 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS6 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS7 Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS8 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS9 Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS10 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS11 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS12 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS13 Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS14 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS15 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS16 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS17 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
SS18 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS19 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
SS20 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru Impreza WRC)

Pre Event News

Posted: March 19, 2008 6:03 PM

Full Entry Lists available on Rally Website under "Competitors"

Circuit of Ireland Easter Extravaganza!

Posted: March 18, 2008 10:47 PM

Ulster Automobile Club’s Circuit of Ireland International Rally is probably one of the most recognised sporting events held on the Emerald Isle. Steeped in a long and distinguished history, the world renowned sporting occasion once held the accolade of being the longest tarmac rally in the world!

The cost of modern day rallying requires shorter, more compact events, but organisers have ensured that this Easter’s rally will challenge the very best of the Irish talent. Based in Newcastle for the first time since 1992, the headquarters for the 2008 event will be located at the glamorous Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.

This year’s event features three rallies rolled into one spectacular event, with centralised servicing provided in Newry for all competitors throughout the weekend. The International Rally, a counting round of the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship, leaves the start ramp in Newcastle at midday on Friday. Competitors entered in this rally tackle all three days of the event before crossing the finish ramp in Newry on Sunday afternoon.

The National and Historic Rally, which incorporates a round of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Stage Rally Championship and the Global Group Irish Tarmac Historic Rally Championship, joins the proceedings on Saturday morning when competitors leave the Castlewellan start ramp. These competitors follow the same stages as the International Rally field, but their finish ramp will be located in Castlewellan on Sunday afternoon. The Ford Fiesta Sporting Challenge Rally grabs a slice of the action on Sunday when these competitors also start and finish in Castlewellan.

Rally Support

Countless hours of hard work, combined with pure girt and determination, by many ‘behind the scenes’ individuals have made this year’s rally spectacular possible. But without the support from the wider local community, it simply wouldn’t be feasible to organise an event of this scale.

Four local authorities within the Armagh Down Tourism Partnership have come together to support the rally, ensuring that the Circuit of Ireland 2008 will take in some of the most spectacular scenery Northern Ireland has to offer.

Looking forward to hosting the Official Start of what promises to be a truly memorable event, Cllr Eddie Rea, Chairman of Down District Council, said, “We will be delighted to welcome the 2008 Circuit of Ireland International Rally to Newcastle and we can promise a suitably festive send-off as the cars cruise through the town in parade before heading off to face rallying challenges in the Mourne Mountains. Those mountains may look very gentle as they sweep down into our lovely resort but we understand that there will be some tough sporting action up there and we’re looking forward to that spectacle adding a dash of excitement to our already packed Easter weekend events and attractions programme!

“Newcastle is famous for delivering family entertainment and we are confident that the town and its thousands of Easter visitors will take the rally to their hearts. Importantly, the rally will also provide a significant boost to our visitor numbers, ensuring that our 2008 season gets off to a brilliant start.”

Echoing that welcome, Cllr Michael Cole, Mayor of Newry & Mourne, said, “We are proud and pleased to host the final stage of the Circuit of Ireland 2008 in Newry city centre, following what promises to be some thrilling rallying in the stunning setting of South Armagh and an area that is particularly close to my heart - The Mournes.

“The Circuit of Ireland is one of the country’s longest established and most popular annual sporting attractions. It has a considerable following across Ireland and will bring large numbers of visitors to the region, delivering significant benefits to our tourist economy. Thanks to the hard work and sterling reputation of the event organisers, the Ulster Automobile Club, the Circuit of Ireland also commands high television audiences not only here but around the world. We believe that Newry & Mourne will benefit greatly from such an important showcase.”

The Circuit of Ireland will also tear through the usually tranquil Orchard County of Armagh, where Armagh City & District Council is preparing to roll out the red carpet in welcome! Mayor, Cllr Charles Rollston, says, “Already we’re seeing accommodation in Armagh City booking up in expectation of a great Rallying weekend – evidence that this is an event which has an important and measurable impact on local tourism.

“We’re hoping that because of its great opportunities for entertainment and socialising, Armagh City will be a focus for R&R – rest and recuperation – for the rally drivers and their support teams! A vibrant recreational and social programme is in place and teams and fans will be able to come together in Armagh to enjoy the camaraderie and craic which make events in this part of the world truly memorable!”

The weekend will also bring rallying action to the hilly countryside around Banbridge – so look out for crowd pleasing spectacle there! Cllr John Hanna, Chairman of Banbridge District Council, will be amongst the crowds cheering on the drivers.

“Our congratulations go to all those whose hard work, commitment and enthusiasm have combined to bring a world class sporting event to our region,” Cllr John Hanna said. “We are delighted to be part of the team for 2008 and we know they will create a great weekend with happy crowds enjoying some amazing driving.

“We hope that visiting sports fans will be so impressed that they will return to enjoy the region at some future stage and we look forward to renewing our welcome then. Hopefully, when they visit, they will have a rather more restrained driving style than that which will be delighting us all over this year’s Circuit of Ireland. From all of us, good luck to everyone involved in the event!”

Many local businesses have also come forward to show their support, including the likes of Downpatrick based company, McGrady Insurance. Managing Director, Fintan McGrady, is also a keen competitor, and is in fact entered in this Easter’s sponsored Circuit of Ireland National Rally.

“On behalf of McGrady Insurance, I’m delighted to be involved this year with the Circuit of Ireland and Ulster Automobile Club,” McGrady said at the press launch. “It is all the more poignant now that the event is based in Newcastle as this is close to our business and I participated when the event was last based here in 1993.

“McGrady Insurance has enjoyed great deal of loyal support from the Motorsport fraternity over many years and we feel it is only fair to put back something in recognition of the enjoyment and support that we have had over the last 30 years. I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish the UAC, its members and all volunteers who help in any way, and particularly the marshals - without whom the event could not run - every success for the event.”

A full colour programme, which includes stage maps, full entry lists as well as driver interviews, profiles and interesting articles, will be available for purchase in the shops during the rally. It is also available for purchase online from the event’s official website at

Leading Entries

As a counting round of the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship, many of the country’s leading drivers are ready to tackle the three-day extravaganza, including Rathcoole’s Gareth MacHale. As the son of five times Irish Tarmac Champion and twice ‘Circuit’ winner, Austin, Gareth will lead the field away from the Slieve Donard start ramp at midday on Good Friday.

MacHale heads an international rally field of 40 crews, including numerous World Rally Cars. The event has also attracted entries from further afield, with Isle of Man born Mark Higgins holding number two on the door of his hired Subaru Impreza WRC. He emerged victorious from the recent Galway International Rally, round one of the championship, and will be looking to repeat last year’s UAC Easter International Rally victory.

County Meath’s Tim McNulty will also capable of springing a surprise, especially with a newly acquired Subaru Impreza WRC S12b at his disposal. He led the opening round of the series in Galway with his older spec car, only to be overhauled by Higgins during the closing stages.

We also have series regular Eamonn Boland on the start list, as well as the number one seed’s brother, Aaron MacHale. Former champion, Derek McGarrity, also hopes to throw a cat among the pigeons, and after his recent McGrady Insurance Stages Rally victory (round two of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship), the Glengormley driver is on a ‘high’.

Newry’s Peadar Hurson is another man with a new car, as he will take to the stages with the ex-Patrick Elliott Subaru Impreza WRC. Meanwhile, Dromara’s Denis Biggerstaff will be hoping to have his gearbox troubles sorted in time for the event.

The International event also sees a plethora of production category machinery joining the fray, with County Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings topping the list. He will be joined by the likes of Clonakilty’s Kevin Kelleher, Cookstown’s John McGlaughlin, and Pirelli Star Driver competition winner, Armagh’s Darren Gass. There’s also the interesting MG Super 2000 belonging to Clonmel’s Roy White, not to mention a fantastic array of front wheel drive machinery further down the order.

Top 10 seeds

Posted: March 18, 2008 10:44 PM

1 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC)
2 Mark Higgins/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza WRC)
3 Tim McNulty/Eugene O'Donnell (Subaru Impreza WRC)
4 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Ford Focus WRC)
5 Aaron MacHale/Killian Duffy (Ford Focus WRC)
6 Derek McGarrity/Diarmuid Falvey (Subaru Impreza WRC)
7 Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly (Subaru Impreza WRC)
8 Denis Biggerstaff/Alistair Wyllie (Subaru Impreza WRC)
9 Garry Jennings/Martin Brady (Mit. Lancer Evo 9)
10 Kevin Kelleher/Martin Kelleher (Mit. Lancer Evo 9)

Maxol E85 Ford FST gears up for the Circuit of Ireland

Posted: March 17, 2008 3:54 PM

Round 2 of the Maxol E85 Ford Fiesta SportingTrophy Ireland kicks off on Sunday 23rd February when the registered crews will line up for the UAC Circuit of Ireland Rally.

The event, which is run by the Ulster Automobile Club and based in Newcastle, will see Fiesta crews run as one group just behind the main International field. Competitors face the demanding stages of Sunday
s leg, which offer a total of 52 competitive miles.

Round 1 - The Galway International Rally - was won by welsh duo Elfyn Evans (18) from Powys, Mid-Wales and Gareth Roberts and the pairing will lead the nine FST crews away from the start. Evans, who currently leads the drivers
standings, will be looking to claim a second consecutive win a brand new Fiesta ST built for this event. With his father and ex-Ford works driver Gwyndaf overseeing the young Welshman
s progress, he has some invaluable advice available to help him on his title assault.

Alastair Fisher (18) from Enniskillen will be the second car to leave the start ramp. Fisher will be co-driven by Barry McNulty as usual. Fisher, who had bad luck on the first round of the series when a heavy landing after a bridge resulted in a broken driveshaft which eventually cost him the victory, will be aiming to change his misfortune and get through the rally and take maximum points.

The brothers of Tadhg and Shane Buckley from Ballyhaunis in County Mayo will be the third car on the road. A third place overall on round 1 has given Buckley a strong start to the championship, and he will be trying to build on this on round 2.

Fourth Fiesta on the road will be Meilyr Evans (18) from Machynlleth, co-driven again by Andrew Edwards. Evans is competing in both the UK and Irish Fiesta series in 2008. Having only competed in two rallies in a Fiesta ST, the Welshman has had a strong start to both series, scoring valuable points on both occasions, and his aim at the Circuit of Ireland will be to continue this trend.

Kyle Orr (18) from Dromore will be the fifth car on the road. He will be joined by Connor Harvey
s (3rd in the 2007 series) former navigator Tony McDaid. Orr is also competing in both the UK and Irish FST series and, with a strong finish on the first rounds of both championships, he will be hoping to build on his current results. Orr has spent a lot of time developing his pacenote-making skills and has competed in a number of other rallies outside of the series to gain maximum time behind the wheel; he hopes this extra effort will be rewarded with his first FST victory.

The familiar pairing of Barry Greer (20) from Carryduff, Northern Ireland and John Lemon will be the sixth Fiesta in the pack. Greer, younger brother of Jonny, last year
s FST UK Champion, has had a steady start to the Irish series. Greer
s last outing on the first round of the UK series ended in disappointment after holing his radiator on Stage 1, forcing him into retirement. He will hope for better luck on what effectively will be his home event and will look to climb from his current fifth place in the drivers
championship standings.

Seventh Fiesta away will be newcomers Stephen Wright (18) from Co. Monaghan and co-driver Ashley McAdoo. With the crew aiming to build on their limited experience in the car they will look to grab a healthy points haul from the event and build their pace over its duration.

Championship regular Paul Quinn (20) from Dungannon, will again reunite with his Round 1 co-driver Jason Gillespie. Quinn will be hoping for better weather conditions than Galway, where water from flooded roads, resulted in the clutch slipping and dropping him valuable time. Quinn
s main aim for the rally will be to record a solid finish.

The final registered crew rounding off the fiercely competitive field are Adrian McBride from Omagh, Co. Tyrone and Rodney Hicks. McBride, the former Irish 205 challenge competitor, suffered a disappointing first round when a broken driveshaft on SS5 meant he had to complete two stages of the rally with one-wheel-drive, leaving him to round off the finishers in Galway. Before this unforseen problem McBride set some promising stage times, this could mean McBride may walk away with a good result at the end of the event.

With the competitors fighting for a prize fund of almost
3,000 on this event, competition will be close and relentless, with any of the crews capable of taking the outright victory of the FST series second meeting.

Elfyn Evans (19) said:

"We have been very busy getting the brand new car ready for the circuit of Ireland, we have had very little time to test before the event but I am still really looking forward to the event. Alastair will of course be very quick, and I have to match his pace but also make sure that I don
t take any major risks on the event. A repeat of Galway would be a great result but it will be a tough battle for victory"

Unseeded list of Entries available, Its Over For Eugene Donnelly in 2008, 2008 Circuit of Ireland Rally

Posted: March 12, 2008 12:13 PM

List of unseeded entries available on Event Website:
Its Over For Eugene Donnelly in 2008
Reigning Irish Tarmac Rally Champion, Eugene Donnelly will not be going for his record breaking fifth consecutive Tarmac title, and will therefore not be starting the Circuit of Ireland Rally at Easter. The Maghera man and his Sligo co driver Paul Kiely have been trying desperately to secure the backing, which would allow them the chance of that fifth title. Indeed they struggled to get to the start of the opening round in Galway, and now Eugene admits that he will not be on the starting ramp in Newcastle at Easter.
“We have been really struggling to get a budget together, even from late last year, which had a difficult end. Then we had a deal fall through on us early this year, and since then it’s been even more difficult, especially with the timescale involved, and companies budgets being allocated, to pull things together for the rest of the season. I’ve tried my best to keep the thing alive, but at this stage it’s simply just not working out for us.”

With thirteen wins to date, a record four consecutive titles, and being the only driver to win each individual round of the series, since it’s inception in 1978, Eugene has written his name into the Tarmac record books, but that chance of a fifth title now eludes him.
”I’m really disappointed that I’m missing a chance of a lifetime to go for a record fifth consecutive title, and therefore equal Austin MacHale’s record of five tarmac titles. However that’s life, and it just goes to show the dedication, determination, commitment and financial pressure that goes so much in hand with the sport nowadays.” Sponsorship is not the easiest avenue to secure for any driver, and even with Eugene’s profile it’s a difficult task. “Sometimes it’s hard to understand with the sheer amount of promotion and television that rallying gets, the profile being raised by Rally Ireland and the fact that we have some of the best rallying terrain in the world, why companies choose to pump money into less publicized sports? Across other parts of Europe rallying attracts huge sponsorship, but the support for competitors, and indeed events doesn’t seem to be prevalent at home.”

Despite the news however about 2008, Eugene is more than thankful for the recent seasons, where he has enjoyed some superb backing. “I can’t complain really, as I have had four or five great years with many great sponsors, and worked with great people running the cars. Right back from winning the Irish Forestry Championship in 2002, Northern Ireland Championship in 2003, through the tarmac titles, I’ve had a great career to date, and I feel very, very lucky to have had that. I really have enjoyed my rallying immensely over the past seasons and thanks to everyone involved.”

Regulations available on the club website:
Preliminary Details

Start: Newcastle Friday 21st March 12:00hrs
Finish: Sunday 23rd March approx 17:00hrs
Central Service in Newry.
HQ Sleive Donard Hotel.
Prizes given out at finish ramp.

Day 1 - approx 65 stage miles + 100 road miles.
Day 2 - approx 85 stage miles + 230 road miles.
Day 3 - approx 55 stage miles + 150 road miles.

Friday - International rally
Sat - International and national rally
Sun - International and national rally

2008 Circuit of Ireland Rally.
he Ulster Automobile Club today announces that the 2008 Circuit of Ireland Rally will take place over its traditional Easter Weekend 21 – 23 March, with a new base, the event is returning to Newcastle, County Down with the glorious backdrop of the Mountains of Mourne.

The event will consist of three categories with the International event (a round of the Global Group Tarmac Rally Championship), beginning proceedings on Friday and the Historic and National events joining for Saturday and Sunday. These events will be counting rounds of, the Global Group National and Historic Championships, and the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship. A round of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy Ireland will also be included during the course of the weekend.

Clerk of the Course Nigel Hughes states “the format for the event will again be repeated stages and with servicing restricted to a single centralised location, thereby minimising costs and making the rally very appealing to competitors”. Regulations for the events will be issued in January.

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